COVID-19: Testing

All New Yorkers should get a COVID-19 diagnostic test, whether or not they have symptoms or have been tested before.

Learn more about testing below, and talk to your health care provider about the types of tests available and how frequently you should get tested.

Find a Testing Site

There are many health care providers, pharmacies and government facilities, including mobile and pop-up testing sites, offering testing — often free — throughout the city.

Here are some resources to help you find a location near you:

When you go for a test, you will not be asked about immigration status. COVID-19 testing and care services are not a public benefit under the public charge rule.

When to Get Tested

Immediate Testing

You should schedule a test as soon as possible if you:

  • Have symptoms of COVID-19.
  • Spent at least 10 minutes within 6 feet of someone who has COVID-19.
  • Just returned from a state with a high level of COVID-19.
  • Recently went to a large indoor gathering of 10 people or more.

Periodic Testing

Health care workers, other essential workers and workers who have in-person contact with people as part of their jobs should get tested once a month.

If you work outside the home, or if you live or work in a congregate setting, you should get tested regularly.

You should get tested before visiting someone who may be at increased risk of severe COVID-19. If you test positive, are showing symptoms or recently were in close contact with someone who has COVID-19, cancel your visit

Retesting After a Positive Test

You should not get retested for COVID-19 during the 90 days after your symptoms began or, if you did not have symptoms, from the date you were tested. A person who has recovered from COVID-19 may have a positive test result weeks — or even months — after infection, even though they are no longer contagious.

If you have recovered from COVID-19 and have new symptoms of COVID-19, consult with a health care provider, especially if you had close contact with someone who currently has COVID-19.

Types of Tests

There are several different types of tests, with some more reliable than others or providing different types of information. Your health care provider can help you decide which type of test is best for you based on the reason for testing, such as recent exposure, presence of symptoms or periodic testing.

Diagnostic Tests

Molecular Tests

Molecular tests (nose or throat swab or saliva test), such as PCR tests, are the most reliable way to test for COVID-19. They can detect the virus even if there is only a small amount in your system.

These tests look for genetic material from the virus that causes COVID-19 (SARS-CoV-2). They require the specimen to be sent to a laboratory, which is why they usually take a few days to receive results. A unique process used at COVID-19 Express sites allow for molecular tests to return results usually within a few hours.

Antigen Tests

Antigen tests provide results faster than molecular tests but can be less accurate. These tests look for proteins on the surface of the SARS-CoV-2 virus.

Antigen tests usually can be processed in a health care provider’s office, rather than a laboratory, which is why they are less expensive and can return results quickly. However, they are more likely than molecular tests to return false positive test results (the test result is positive but the person does not have COVID-19) and false negative test results (the test result is negative even though the person has COVID-19). In certain cases, such as when a person is showing symptoms, health care providers may recommend a follow-up molecular test to confirm the results of an antigen test.

Antibody Tests

Antibody tests check the blood for signs that you have had the virus in the past. They require getting a blood sample through a finger stick or drawing blood from a vein in your arm.

An antibody test may not be accurate for someone with an active or recent infection or for other reasons.

It is important that you continue to follow physical distancing, practice good hand hygiene and wear a face covering. It is possible to get COVID-19 again.

After a Test

If you test positive for COVID-19 in a diagnostic test, immediately separate yourself from others and contact your health care provider.

The NYC Test & Trace Corps can help you and your close contacts prevent the spread of the virus . If you cannot safely separate at home, you and those you may have exposed to the virus can qualify for a free hotel room.

You should stay isolated until all of the following are true:

  • It has been at least 10 days since:
    • You started feeling sick or
    • The date you were tested (if you have not felt sick)
  • You have not had a fever for at least 24 hours without taking fever and pain-reducing medicines, such as Advil, Motrin, Tylenol or aspirin
  • Your overall illness has improved

If you develop trouble breathing, persistent pain or pressure in your chest, confusion, inability to stay awake, bluish lips or face, or any other emergency condition, call 911 immediately.

Additional Resources